Home Cured Bacon
Years ago, in a former-life as a sales rep, my territory covered the Far North. Two or three times per year, I would venture past Whangarei in a largely fruitless effort to sell wine beyond the then limits of civilisation.
The greatest motivation to make the trip, was actually to visit a former client who loved wine and was a excellent cook. Each trip, I would phone in advance to advise him of the few of bottles of interesting wine I would contribute and on my arrival we would embark upon a gourmandish evening of eating and drinking.
During one early visit, my friend showed me the new smokehouse he had build. From then on, our dinners frequently featured his home-smoked kingfish, marlin and shellfish as well as various home-cured meats and sausages.
This inspiration stuck with me and over the years I had often thought about having a go at home-curing, but it never got past the thought stage. I was very nearly spurred in to action when, on a visit to Te Whare Ra wines in Marlborough, the owners showed me a couple of wild ham legs they had salted and were drying into their version of 'Parma' ham.
In reality, I was scared that rather than arriving at delicious, meaty success, I would in fact create nothing but 20 kilograms of some kind of putrefying science experiment.
Just recently however, my confidence was lifted when I saw a short piece about home-curing bacon on an episode of River Cottage. It was so simple, that I figured even I could do it. And, if disaster indeed stuck, I would be disposing of only a kilo or so of smelly pork belly.
With a quick search, I found the very episode on YouTube and was able to note down the recipe and technique. I recommend you take three minutes to watch it.
This recipe really is incredibly easy and the results are so good that for me, it was just what I needed to get me into home curing.
River Cottage | Steve Lamb | Making Bacon
Dry Cure Bacon
Firstly, this is a dry cure method. The liquid released from the meat is discarded each day and fresh cure is added.
Secondly, be aware that this cure is simple and natural. It contains no sodium nitrite or Prague powder as it is also known, a preservative which prevents the growth of Clostridium botulinum bacteria, which causes botulism.
- Pork Belly, skin on, bone out, approximately 1 - 2 kg piece.
- Plain Salt.
- Raw or Demarerra sugar.
- A few juniper berries, crushed.
- A few bay leaves, shredded.
- A shallow, seal-able plastic container and lid, to fit the pork belly.
- A seal-able plastic container or glass jar and lid, to store your cure mix.
Mix equal parts (say two cups each) of plain salt and sugar. Then mix the juniper berries and bay leaves through the cure.
Take a handful of the cure mix and sprinkle it over the bottom of the plastic container.
Place the pork belly onto the cure mix, meat side down, skin side up, and sprinkle another handful over the top. Rub any surplus cure onto the sides of the pork belly.
Seal the container with the lid and put it in the bottom of your fridge.
After 24 hours, take the pork out of the fridge and remove the lid. You'll see some liquid has been released from the meat. Discard the liquid.
Remove the meat from the container and sprinkle a handful of cure in the bottom. Turn the pork belly over, so that this time, the skin side is down and the meat side is up. Sprinkle another handful of cure over the top of the meat.
Repeat this process, turning the meat each day, for at least five days or until no more liquid is released from the meat.
You'll see the meat changing, becoming darking in colour and firmer in texture as the curing proceeds.
On the sixth day or so, you can stop adding cure and either leave the meat in the fridge, covered with a tea-towel for a further five days, or hang the meat in a cool, shaded place outdoors for five days.
|By day ten, your bacon is ready. Slice a portion and fry in a pan. It is magnificent!|